Best for: Stunning scenery. Budding photographers and Instagram enthusiasts will love the natural splendour of this volcanic Caribbean isle.
Imagine a place where you can find British home comforts like driving on the left and proper cups of tea, alongside all your favourite food and wine from a holiday in France with a Caribbean climate and straight-from-a-Bounty-advert-beaches. Amazingly such a place does exist and it’s called St Lucia, an island steeped in a history that brings three cultures together in heavenly style. As a Francophile Brit with a penchant for sunning myself against paradise backdrops, this beautiful teardrop-shaped island was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
Before I set foot on St Lucia’s lush, green land, I’d heard many things – it’s well-known on the honeymoon circuit for its incredible volcanic scenery and laid-back luxe five-star hotels. It was news to me that the destination is a tale of two islands though. The north is lively with street parties and the buzzing capital, Castries, while the south is tranquil and dominated by awesome geographical sights. Even the beaches are different with deep golden shorelines framing the north and silvery white sands in the south. It only seemed right to discover both ends with a dual-stop stay, so after landing in the south we begin the white-knuckle ride journey by car through the awesome jungle scenery to the northernmost tip, Pointe du Cap. As we go our driver fills us in on all the exotic species hiding in the island’s lush centre, including the very rare St Lucian parrot.
Our destination is Cap Maison, a boutique hotel on the rugged cliffs overlooking Pigeon Island. The second we step out onto the sun-drenched drive surrounded by fragrant bougainvillea and the tinkling of water features, the staff greet us like old friends and I know I’m going to feel right at home here. The hotel feels like an exotic Mediterranean village with an inviting main house, complete with honesty bar and beautiful one-off pieces of furniture.
Every winding path we amble down reveals another surprise, from a two-tiered infinity pool with views that make you rub your eyes to a private path down to the beach, with its traditional beach-shack restaurant.
Tempting as it is to spend our days floating around in our suite’s wrap-around swimming pool, there’s something about the dramatic Atlantic coast surroundings that inspires adventure, so we venture out for a run with the hotel’s fitness guru Julian, who encourages us up steep craggy inclines, laughing as we use London’s lack of hills as an excuse for being so out of breath. The exercise is worth it later when we’re enjoying a deep tissue massage from the multi-talented Julian and working our way through three courses of Caribbean-French fusion fare at the romantic Cliff at Cap Restaurant.
Another daring drive, this time down the western coast past pretty Marigot Bay and bakeries selling traditional fruit bread, takes us to our second stop, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort. As we pass through the entrance at the top of the Val de Pitons the jungle opens out onto the most spectacular scene. Framed by the iconic Piton Peaks, with a sugary beach and emerald bay, this resort occupies the best spot on the island. Our phones come out automatically, we’ll be instagramming every aspect of this view, #nofilterneeded.
It’s not just the scenery we snap constantly, we have a serious case of interiors envy when we see our Grand Luxury Villa. The sprawling clapboard cottage has a private infinity pool patio and everything from the Mr & Mrs sinks, to the walk-in wardrobe and beautiful white-on-white palette gets saved in the how-we-wish-our-house-looked folder.
On arrival we’re given a mobile phone with direct access to our very own butler, thinking we’ll never use it. But settling into our A-list living quarters we suddenly come over all diva and find ourselves constantly dialling up for all manner of silly things. “I don’t suppose you’d mind coming over and cutting open my coconut,” I hear my other half asking in all seriousness one day. Five minutes later our butler appears the hint of a grin on his face. Something tells me he’s had weirder requests.
The resort is a real Tardis, from the beach you can’t see a thing, as every building is cleverly concealed into the trees, but follow the steep paths round and there are acres worth of wonders to discover. In the middle of the valley there’s the Great House, a classic plantation building, which contains the gourmet Great Room restaurant for a smart night out, the Cane Bar, for cool cocktails and a patio area for breakfast surrounded by buzzing hummingbirds and butterflies.
Boredom is not an option here. Everyday we make the tricky decision of whether to lie on double beds by the pool in the shadow of Petit Piton, on the white sand beach under thatched shades (complete with hangers to keep sarongs uncreased), or by our own pool with a bottle of Piton beer in hand. Our afternoons are a heady mix of snorkelling round the marine park, zip-lining through the jungle and making visits to the beautiful Rainforest Spa, which is a maze of wooden walkways and natural pools in the trees.
Whether we’ve taken it slowly or enjoyed an action-packed adventure every day ends the same way for us… at the Bayside Bar, with our toes in the sand, a cocktail in hand and our eyes firmly locked on the peachy sun setting behind the Pitons. It’s a sight that no picture will ever do justice to, despite our best efforts.
A Gardenview Room at Cap Maison starts from £275 per night on a B&B basis (two sharing), capmaison.com.
Luxury Sugar Mill Rooms at Sugar Beach start from £260 per night, viceroyhotelsandresorts.com. Flights from £476 return, britishairways.com